After Age of Wonders and its two sequels AoW:The Wizard’s Throne and AoW:Shadow Magic, Triumph Studios returns to the world of Age of Wonders once more and prepares to release their third sequel, Age of Wonders 3, by the end of this year. A pre-alpha gameplay video was made available a few months ago, at GDC. Keith, our fantasy Hero, asked Triumph Studios some questions about their new turn-based fantasy strategy game. The answers were provided by Lennart Sas and Arno van Wingerden, founders of Triumph Studios. Enjoy!
SS: Age of Wonders 3 is going to feature at least six races, six classes, and six specializations upon release. Given such varied options and potential, game balance can be a difficult thing to get just right. Allowing players access to incredibly powerful abilities can offer an exciting experience, but can also be very difficult to do in a game incorporating multiplayer. What is Age of Wonders 3′s strategy regarding game balance?
LS & AW: In Age of Wonders 3 we approach balance from multiple angles. There are initial spreadsheet checks and logic limitations (i.e. avoid units achieving full physical immunity through buffing). Next we have an in-game valuation system that puts a value to each game entity and of course there is iterative development with testing; including automated AI vs AI testing. But in the end nothing matches fine-tuning the game after release with the feedback from thousands of players.
That being said, we value variation and experimentation. AoW3 is a game strong on empire building where we encourage people to experiment and we actually welcome a limited amount of imbalances. E.g. in previous games Halflings were a bit underpowered, however some experienced players actually played with them because of the extra challenge they posed.
SS: AI is a subject near and dear to the heart of many strategy gamers. What elements of your AI design do you think help you stand out as opposed to other similar titles, and how is your AI strategy influenced by differences in the selected game difficulty level?
LS & AW: With all core systems now implemented and the game being close to Alpha the AI is currently our main focus in terms of programming. AIs have different personalities this time around. In the design phase, we addressed AI weak points from previous games, such as transport ship combat which was easy to abuse by human players. For higher difficulty logic, the AI will calculate through a larger amount of scenarios, which is made possible with advanced CPU power and multi-threading AI routines. Our main goal is to have AI players that provide a meaningful challenge and entertain the player.
SS: Will we see any espionage mechanics or increased diplomatic options in Age of Wonders 3 in comparison to the prior titles in the series?
LS & AW: Age of Wonders remains firmly rooted in the fantasy realm, with camouflaged rogue units infiltrating enemy domains and magical scrying to tell what’s going on at your rival’s towns. Adding a Civilization style espionage system currently doesn’t have a high priority.
We have improved the bartering system, with more trading options and we have increased interaction with independent towns and monster dwellings. In previous games there was an alignment check to determine whether or not an indie settlement would join you for the right amount of gold or if you’d needed to conquer it by force. We’ve now extended the interaction with these neutral settlements to include questing to gain their favor and rewards, which include cool rare monster units or monster mounts for your heroes.
SS: A lot of 4X and turn-based strategy games of all genres tend to reach a point in the mid to late game where gameplay becomes more about micromanagement and tedious mop up of your opponents than about having fun. What steps have you taken to keep the player engaged and interested in the later stages of a game?
LS & AW: It’s our goal to keep the games as exciting as possible in each phase. Each class includes powerful end-game skills resembling a nuclear option to make enemies bow down in submission. In a free-for-all game, enemy AIs can join forces and gang up against you in a last ditch attempt to thwart their impending annihilation. The game features high level exploration sites and monster dwellings reserved for late game uncovering.
Also don’t forget Age of Wonders has always been a game heavy on combat. The map is fully malleable and the end game might show a lot the towns in ruin and the countryside corrupted by blight or high-level magic. Subsequently the final conflict might focus on a couple of remaining developed hot spots. But beware; alignment is now fully dynamic. Scorched earth tactics might provide short-term gain, but will most likely work against you over long term.
SS: Out of all the improvements and elements you’ve added to Age of Wonders 3, which aspect of your game do you feel stands out and is going to be the most exciting to players?
LS & AW: Age of Wonders 3 has so many systems, which all have seen improvement, from the added depth of the tactical battles, to more variety in location on the world maps, to new domain system. In the end it’s all about how these systems work together. As it’s such an overarching feature I’d go pick the new leader classes which really are at the root of the new Age of Wonders experience, where the player is able to be a leader of a fantasy realm that is an extension of his own character and provides great variation in game play as RPG character classes do.
SS: Thanks for your time.
Age of Wonders 3 is an upcoming turn-based fantasy strategy game, with 4X elements, by Triumph Studios for the PC . It will be “a modern reimagining of the series”, as Triumph Studios puts it. It’s slated to release somewhere between September and November 2013, and it will be available on both Steam and GOG.
Keith Turner, also known as aReclusiveMind here on SpaceSector, has been an avid gamer ever since he first laid his hands on a Commodore 128 in the mid 1980s. He enjoys multiple computer game genres, but his primary interests are in deep strategy games, 4x games, rpgs, and action rpgs. He enjoys writing and hopes to contribute with additional reviews, previews, and informative AARs to the community. See all Keith’s posts here.Subscribe RSS
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